Determination of DFD

DETERMINATION OF DFD

Armed with interview results, tabulated questionnaires, and experience through personal observations, the analyst is ready to describe the current system in narrative form, with a data- flow diagram, or with a system flowchart. Since all organizations have an account payable (AP) system let us be in with such an example using a context DFD. A context DFD defines the system understudy in a general form, showing :

Inputs to AP : Packing slips, invoices, checking account balances, payment notifications.

Outputs from AP, reports to management, cheque to suppliers.

A context DFD does not show any detail but is an overview drawing of the system. It is an excellent diagram to share with management whose interest is general in nature. Context DFDs place a boundary around the system under investigation, saying that this is what will be examined – nothing more and nothing less.

Observing the Current System

OBSERVING THE CURRENT SYSTEM

The analyst may want to observe the existing system personally by following transaction. such as in invoice, through it. Direct observation allows the analyst to verify his or her understanding of the system. Instead of getting second-hand impressions about a specific task, the analyst can experience the actual process. However, he or she must remain outside the flow as an observer, so as not to introduce biases or changes in actual procedures. Observing a system requires caution, when people know they are being observed. They usually behave differently, working more efficiently and at higher speeds to impress the analyst.

In some instances, the analyst may find it useful to visit another organization with a computerized system similar to the one under study. Finding a comparable installation may pose a problem, however. Some competitive organizations may not want to share their experiences, others may be too large or too small for accurate comparisons, and still others may be unwilling to waste employees’ time demonstrating their system. Whenever visiting another organization, an analyst should follow the rules of etiquette: make an appointment, research the organization beforehand, know what he or she wants to see, and write a follow-up, thank you letter.

Hardware and software vendors can also supply valuable information. Computer sales representatives will gladly share their experiences with potential clients, and software firms will send brochures describing their programs. Although very useful information from such sources should be reviewed carefully because vendors are more interested in promoting their products than in solving your problems.

Questionnaires

QUESTIONNAIRES

Questionnaires economically gather data from both large and small groups of people. Properly constructed, they do not take long to complete and statistical results can be quickly tabulated. Development of a questionnaire requires in depth planning, and usually more than one draft is necessary.

You may also have had occasions to respond to such questionnaires, sometimes in newspapers or sometimes from marketing personnel, who do door to door surveys.

Questionnaire design is critical. Questions should be short, easy to understand, unbiased, nonthreatening, and specific. To make sure questions will stimulate needed information, the analyst can test them with one or two outsiders before widespread distribution. Prepaid return envelopes accompanying questionnaires sent to outside help assure prompt response.

The analyst should send questionnaires to everyone involved with the system. A questionnaire works particularly well when the analyst must gather data from a large number of people, when the analyst must ask everyone the same questions, or when facts must be collected from people, such as suppliers, who do not work for the organization. Questions can follow four formats :

  • Multiple choice : This gives respondents a specific set of potential answers. The format is ideal for computer tabulating.
  • Open ended : Respondents must answer the question in their own words. Space is provided under each question for the response.
  • Rating : This is similar to multiple choice except that respondents must rate their
  • Rank : Rank requires respondents to prioritize their responses from high to low or on a percentage basis.

Aware that most people do not spend a lot of time responding to questionnaire. Most analysts decide to mix question formats, including follow-up questions, within the original questionnaire to permit elaboration of certain responses. By so organizing a questionnaire, the respondents have an opportunity to express their opinions freely, and yet answer

quickly through the use of multiple-choice, rating, and ranking questions. When all the questionnaires are returned, the data can be tabulated.

If the results of a questionnaire survey are incomplete or confusing, the analyst may want to contact selected outsiders by telephone or in person. This requires tact, of course, and an understanding that the analyst’s own pressing need may not concern outsiders in the least.

Who to Interview ?

WHO TO INTERVIEW

One of the analyst’s first and most important tasks during the data gathering phase of the analysis process, is to determine who has to be interviewed. This includes selecting the interviewees, understanding what can be expected from an interview of a person at a specific level, how to verify the information received from an interview, and, most important, understanding the perspective of the person being interviewed.

Most analysis projects have a user liaison assigned to the analysis team. It is this person’s function to introduce the analyst to those being interviewed, to provide background information, and to interpret (or translate) the information which is obtained from the interviews. This person usually has the additional role of assisting the analyst in choosing those to be interviewed, scheduling the interviews themselves, and in some cases attending the interviews.

Interviewing and verification sequenes

Under normal conditions, the analyst will have access to all people in the user area, although normally there is no need to interview them all. This is especially true if the user area is very large.

Generally speaking, the list of those to be interviewed can be divided into three sections :

  1. the most senior manager,
  2. his or her subordinates and junior managers, and
  3. line workers, clerk’s, production people, sales staff, etc.

See Figure 7.1 for interviewing and verification sequences.

The following are some guidelines for the analyst as to who to interview, when to interview them, what their perspective is, and what to expect from the interview (the goal of the interview itself).

  1. The most senior manager in the user area. It is vital to interview this person at the start of the project. From him or her the analyst will obtain an overview of the user area, an overview of the functions performed by that area, and an idea of how the area fits within the overall structure of the organization and its activities.
    The analyst can expect that the information received here will be general in nature. However, the manager will be able to define fairly accurately the business objectives of the project, the functions for which support is needed, any perceived problems which require attention, the time frame within which the project is expected to be completed, and the constraints, both business and financial, which apply. This manager can also suggest persons to interview, areas to concentrate on, and other sources of information. This manager should also be able to provide the enterprise perspective which is vital to the analyst’s understanding.
    For each area within his or her control, the manager should be able to give the analyst an organization chart which indicates the structure of the area, the number of people within it, and an overview of its function. These charts should be used to select the names of individuals to be interviewed: the area manager, interviewees recommended by the manager, and, if necessary, alternative contacts in each area.
    The analyst should not expect great levels of detail about the individual activities of the area nor about the individual tasks which are performed, much less how they are performed.
    Regardless of any other information acquired, it is this senior manager who will benefit most from the project, who in most cases is funding the project itself, and who will in all probability have the final sign-off on the completed work. It is vital, therefore, to have a clear understanding of what is expected by this person.
  2. Immediate subordinates of the most senior manager and junior managers. There may be many levels of these managers, each lower one having a smaller span of control, more specific responsibilities, and less authority than the one immediately above. Working from the organization charts supplied by the senior area manager, the analyst should schedule meetings with either (a) each of the senior manager’s immediate subordinates or (b) those subordinates for whom the project is being undertaken. In either case (a) or (b), it may be necessary for the analyst to speak to each of these managers, if only to arrange to speak to people in their areas who might be affected by the project or who might be able to contribute to the information gathering process of the analysis.
    It may also be found that the actual scope of the project, or the problem, is larger than originally defined and that the sources of the problem are in areas other than those which are experiencing the symptoms. For this reason it is usually a good idea to request and receive explicit permission from the senior manager to interview each of the second-line managers.
    The senior manager should also be asked to explain to them the scope of the project, its intent, and that it may be necessary to interview some of their subordinates as the project progresses even though they are not directly involved (initially) in the project.
    In many cases, people move from function to .function or at least from activity to activity during their employment by the firm. Many of these people may have more knowledge about the area under analysis than the current incumbents.
    In many cases the managers themselves will have been promoted through the ranks, and will retain, if not current information about the area activities, at least some of the historical perspective as to how and why the area performs some of its activities and how they have changed over the years. In addition they can provide additional detail as to any problems, the reasons for-those problems, and suggested ways to resolve them.
    The managers at the various levels may also be able to clarify the statements made by their immediate superiors. The analyst will find that each person has a different perspective on an area, a perspective which reflects the individual’s responsibilities and authorities. Each individual will also be able to provide a more detailed perspective on the interactions between different areas.
    One of the -things the analyst should be doing constantly during these interviews is verifying and cross-checking the information received. This cross-checking’ should be done in an objective Manner and should not violate any information given in confidence. The objective is not to place blame or point fingers but to ensure that the information is correct. Where discrepancies arise between the information received from different managers, it may be necessary to verify the original information or seek a third source.
  3. Operational and clerical personnel. These people actually perform the detailed tasks of processing, manufacturing, data gathering, or reporting. It is their tasks that the automated systems are ultimately intended to perform or augment. For this reason it is mandatory that the analyst thoroughly understand not only what they are supposed to do, but what they actually do, how they do it, and why they do it. It can be expected that most interviews will occur at this level. They will also be the most detailed.
    Generally, the analyst will want to interview at least one person from each specific task or activity area. In some cases it may be necessary to interview more than one person. Each person interviewed will in all probability refer to something received from or passed to another person or area. The analyst must verify that both individuals agree on the identity of the materials they are passing to each other and that both agree on the content of the transferred material. The understanding of the operations level personnel as to their specific duties, functions, and activities must match that of their immediate managers. Any discrepancies -in this area must be resolved by the analyst.

Dos and Don’ts of Interviewing

DOS AND DON’TS OF INTERVIEWING

The rules of interviewing are similar to the rules which govern most human interactions and to the rules which govern most investigative and problem-solving processes. In effect they can be called the rules of the game.

  1. Do not assume anything.
  2. Do not form pre-judgments.
  3. Do ask questions which start with who, what, where, when, why, and how, where
  4. Do ask both open and closed questions.
  5. Do verify understanding through probing and confirming questions.
  6. Do avoid confrontation.
  7. Do act in a friendly but professional manner.
  8. Do not
  9. Do listen actively.
  10. Do take notes, but do not be obtrusive about it.
  11. Do let the interviewee do most of the talking
  12. Do establish rapport early and maintain it.
  13. Do maintain control over the subject matter.
  14. Do not go off on tangents.
  15. Do establish a time frame for the interview and stick to it.
  16. Do conclude positively.
  17. Do allow for follow-up or clarification interviews later on.
  18. Do be polite and courteous

Interviewing Guidelines

INTERVIEWING GUIDELINES

Given these various phases and the variety of goals of an interview, the importance of properly conducted interview should be self-evident. Since each interview is in fact a personal exchange of information between two personalities, a set of guidelines for the interviewer should be established to ensure that nothing interferes with the stated goal,

gathering complete, accurate information. The interview is not an adversary relationship; instead it should be a conversation. Above all it is a process, and like most processes it has certain rules and guidelines which should be followed.

  1. First and foremost, establish the tone of the interview.
  2. Let the interviewee know the reason for the interview and why he or she was selected to be interviewed.
  3. Stress that the interviewee’s knowledge and opinions are important, and will aid in the analysis process.
  4. Gain the interviewee’s trust and cooperation early on, and maintain it
  5. Establish what will happen to the information gathered.
  6. Determine any areas of confidentiality or restricted information.
  7. Let the interviewee know that candor and honesty will be valued and that nothing will be published or passed on until it has been reviewed and verified by the interviewee.
  8. Firmly establish that there are no negative consequences to being interviewed.

What are the Goals of the Interview ?

WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF THE INTERVIEW ?

At each level, each phase, and with each interviewee, an interview may be conducted to:

  1. Gather information on the company
  2. Gather information on the function
  3. Gather information on processes or activities
  4. Uncover problems
  5. Conduct a needs determination
  6. Verification of previously gathered facts
  7. Gather opinions or viewpoints
  8. Provide information
  9. Obtain leads for further interviews

Interviewing Components

INTERVIEWING COMPONENTS

The interview process itself consists of a number of parts.

  1. Selection of the interviewee and scheduling time for the interview.
  2. Preparation of interview questions, or script.
  3. The interview itself.
  4. Documentation of the facts and information gathered during the interview.
  5. Review of the interview write up with the interviewee.
  6. Correction of the write up, sign-off, and filing.

Types of Interviews

TYPES OF INTERVIEWS

During the analysis process, interviews are conducted for a variety of purposes and with a variety of goals in mind. An interview can be conducted at various times within the process for

  1. Initial introduction
  2. Familiarization or background
  3. Fact gathering
  4. Verification of information gathered elsewhere
  5. Confirmation of information gathered from the interviewee
  6. Follow-up, amplification, and clarification

What is an Interview ?

WHAT IS AN INTERVIEW ? (A) definition

An interview is “a formal face-to-face meeting, especially, one arranged for the assessment of the qualifications of an applicant, as for employment or admission…. A conversation, as one conducted by a reporter, in which facts, or statements are elicited from another.”

The interview is the primary technique for information gathering during the systems analysis phases of a development project. It is a skill which must be mastered by every analyst. The interviewing skills of the analyst determine what information is gathered, and the quality and depth of that information. Interviewing, observation, and research are the primary tools of the analyst.

The interview is a specific form of meeting or conference, and is usually limited to two persons, the interviewer and the interviewee. In special circumstances there may be more than one interviewer or more than one interviewee in attendance. In these cases there should still be one primary interviewer and one primary interviewee.